Big Lottery Fund
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£25 million to help call time on elder alcohol misuse

The Big Lottery Fund has recently been seeking a lead partner to manage and deliver a new £25 million UK-wide programme, Rethink Good Health, to tackle late onset of alcohol misuse amongst older people.

  • It is estimated that over 1.4 million or over 14% of older men and women in the UK drink over safe limits *
  • In England in 2012/13 there were more admissions to hospital of pensioners for alcohol-related injuries and illness than of 16 to 24 year olds **

Alcohol misuse amongst older people is a growing concern amongst health professionals placing increasing demands on relationships, community services and the NHS.

In March this year Dr Tony Rao, a Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust found between 2002 and 2012 hospital admissions in people aged 60-74 for mental and behavioural disorders due to the use of alcohol had risen by 150% from 3,247 to 8,120.

Dr Sarah Wadd, Programme Director Substance Misuse and Ageing Research, Tilda Goldberg Centre, Institute of Applied Social Research, University Bedfordshire said:

“Evidence suggests that the UK may be facing an epidemic of alcohol-related harm amongst older people.  An estimated 1.4 million people aged 65 and over currently exceed recommended drinking limits and the large number of people born in the post-World War II economic boom period, the so-called ‘baby-boomers’, are moving into old age drinking relatively high levels of alcohol compared to previous generations. 

Despite the increasing levels of alcohol-related harm in older people, alcohol prevention, screening and treatments remain geared toward younger people.  The huge boost that the Big Lottery Fund will give to this area has the potential to lead to a significant reduction in alcohol-related harm in older people, enable them to live healthier, more active and independent lives and reduce distress to families and carers.”

Rethink Good Health aims to inform policy and practice about preventing alcohol dependency in later life; improve health and wellbeing of people aged 50 and over who are at risk of developing alcohol dependency and finally; inform more effective service delivery to prevent alcohol dependency amongst an ageing population.

The Big Lottery Fund will make a £25 million award to one partnership to develop a portfolio of projects which will also generate learning to influence and inform policy and practice in preventing alcohol misuse amongst older people aged 50 and over. The scale and scope of the investment means that the award will be made to a partnership of voluntary and community organisations that can work together, drawing upon wide ranging expertise to deliver projects and interventions that provide a wider evidence base of what works for policy makers and practitioners. Potential UK leads have until 24 October 2013 to submit their first stage application.

Peter Ainsworth, Big Lottery Fund Chair said: “Most older people drink moderately and nobody is suggesting for a moment that older people should be discouraged from enjoying a well earned pint or a glass of wine relaxing with family or friends.  There is a lot said about young people and binge drinking, but evidence is emerging about the problems of older people as they experience life changing events such as retirement, redundancy or bereavement.

“Today’s Big Lottery Fund £25 million investment will help call time on this trend by supporting evidence based preventative approaches to alcohol misuse amongst older people.”

The successful UK lead partner will be expected to develop an overall strategy and manage a portfolio of around 15-20 individual projects across the UK that either replicate existing projects that have demonstrated impact or are new projects which demonstrate innovation in this area.
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*Source:  Alcohol Concern 150% rise in hospital admissions for over 60's with alcohol related mental health problems, Monday 18 March 2013

**Source BBC1 Panorama, ‘Old, drunk and disorderly’ :

Notes to Editors

  • The Big Lottery Fund is the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery.
  • The Fund is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since its inception in June 2004 The Fund has made awards close to £6 bn in total.
  • The Fund was formally established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
  • Since the National Lottery began in 1994, 28p from every pound spent by the public has gone to good causes. As a result, over £30 billion has now been raised and more than 400,000 grants awarded across arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.

Key Facts and Figures on Alcohol and Ageing

  • It is estimated that about 900,000 men and 560,000 women aged 65 drinks over safe limits, representing over 14% of the total older population in the UK.
  • The number of alcohol related deaths in the UK, which remains highest in the 55-74 age group
  • Research looked at trends in hospital admissions in England for older people with mental health problems related to alcohol use. They found that there was a 150% rise for over 60’s with alcohol related mental health problems in the last decade.  And over 60’s were more likely to be hospitalised for alcohol related mental health problems than for alcohol related liver disease.
  • Drinking surveys suggest that since 1984, in both men and women aged 45 to 65 and over the proportions of those exceeding the sensible limits’ have been rising steadily
  • In the last five years, there has been a 62 per cent increase in alcohol-related admissions for the over 65s in England.
  • In the older age bracket (65+) 1.4 million older people  are estimated
    to drink too much and in England last year, there were more admissions to hospital of pensioners for alcohol-related injuries and illnesses than of 16 to 24-year-olds.
  • The number of older people between the ages of 60 and 74 admitted to hospitals in England with mental and behavioural disorders associated with alcohol use has risen by over 50% more than in the 15-59 age group over the past 10 years (a 94% increase in the 15-59 age group from 27,477 to 53,258 and a 150% increase in the 60-74 age group from 3,247 to 8,120
  • Older people tend to drink more frequently than younger. The proportion of adults who drank every day increased with each group - just 1% of 16-24 age group had drunk every day during the previous week, 4% in 25-44, 9% in 45-64 and 13% in 65+

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